Clause 1 - Lord Chancellor’s functions

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 19th July 2011.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 9:45 am, 19th July 2011

I have not finished responding to the hon. Gentleman’s first point. I anticipate that when I have done so, he will still want me to give way.

Let us be clear. We are not saying that finance should not be a driver—a principal driver—as it is in all other areas of public expenditure, which is the hon. Gentleman’s point. As we heard in the House yesterday, for example, finance is the principal driver of defence expenditure; but just as one would not say that because money is tight, or because the Government wish to be efficient, we should abandon defence of the realm, so too one should not say, “Because we believe that money has to be saved at all objects and the Lord Chancellor says that his role model is to cut almost a quarter of the spending in his Department, that will be the driving force and, therefore, we will live with the consequences for the availability of legal services in this country.”

We are simply saying that—this is why the shadow Chancellor will have no disturbed sleep at all—in setting budgets, the Government cannot ignore the principles of policy. It is a simple and straightforward point, and it does not matter whether we are talking about defence,  education or legal services. My question to the hon. Member for Ipswich is this. Why do his Government think that in this area of public policy, it is possible to make such swingeing cuts that little may be left of the civil legal aid system in this country?